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Quest for old truck's history forges international connection

The quest for information about this 1933 Chevrolet truck, shipped across the Atlantic last year to England, has helped forge connections between the truck’s new owner and residents of Grove City. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

WILLMAR — When the 1933 Chevrolet truck arrived in Suffolk, England, from Minot, N.D., it had seen better days.

It had 90,000 miles on the odometer, makeshift wiring attached to the starter and a pair of bullet holes in the cab.

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But what most intrigued Justin Grimwood, the truck’s new owner, was the faded sign on the door that read, “E.W. Hedeen, Grove City, Minn.” It was followed by a permit number.

An unexpected discovery of an old postcard and many emails later, Grimwood has begun piecing together some of the history of the truck and its original owner, Ernie Hedeen.

“It’s been kind of like a puzzle,” said Lanette Holmquist of Grove City, who helped connect Grimwood with friends and relatives of the Hedeen family. “For me it’s been interesting.”

Grimwood, 39, grew up tinkering around machinery with his father, a self-taught engineer. In an email interview, he said he wanted to acquire an old truck so that he could accompany his father and brother-in-law, who also are truck enthusiasts, to rallies and shows.

Because of the damp climate in the U.K., trucks usually have a short lifespan and older models tend to be expensive and hard to find. So Grimwood turned instead to the United States, searching online until he found what he was looking for — a 1933 one-and-a-half-ton truck for sale at an auto outlet in Minot, N.D.

“The cab’s wooden frame would need replacing and the motor was seized but it was almost complete, it was just the project that I was looking for,” he said.

It took five months to get it shipped across the Atlantic. When the truck finally arrived on Aug. 23, 2012, “I was over the moon … it was worth the wait,” Grimwood said.

Right away he began looking for clues to the truck’s history. The chassis ID plate told him the truck was manufactured in Flint, Mich., in 1933 but the engine was from a 1936 Chevrolet Standard car, indicating the original engine had been replaced. A 1946 North Dakota truck license bolted to the front of the radiator suggested the truck hadn’t been on the road in almost 70 years.

More puzzling were the two bullet holes, including one in the roof directly above the driver’s seat. Grimwood speculates that as the cab deteriorated, it was used for target practice, adding, “At least I am hoping that was the case.”

Turning to the Internet, he tracked down the truck’s most recent registered owner, only to learn the man had died a few months earlier.

More online searching yielded nothing about E.W. Hedeen. Then the manager at the computer services company where Grimwood works as a support technician showed him an old postcard from the website for Carlson Meat Processing of Grove City, depicting the town’s main street in the 1930s.

Grimwood sent an email and some photos of his truck to the store’s owner, Chuck Carlson, and a week later received a reply. Carlson had shown the truck photos to some people in town and one of them knew Ernie Hedeen. What’s more, there was information to share: Hedeen farmed north of Grove City, used to haul livestock to South St. Paul and moved to Litchfield sometime after World War II.

Over the next few months, the email correspondence widened to include Holmquist, whose stepfather, Ronald Drange, knew the Hedeens.

“He grew up in the neighborhood of the Hedeen family, and he was able to provide me with quite a bit of information,” Holmquist said.

She and Drange helped connect Grimwood with one of Hedeen’s nephews and then with his daughter, who supplied more details about his life — he moved to Minneapolis-St. Paul in the 1950s and died in 1965 — and also mailed some photos of her father.

“It is astonishing that all of this interesting information came from a chance email about an old picture of Grove City,” Grimwood said.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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